As the shortest day approaches, our minds turn to the next season; every box for every week to May 2016 has been planned, crops allocated and most plants and seeds ordered. A dry spell last week allowed us to spread muck, plough and sow the over-wintered broad beans, both in France and Devon. We have given up with bangers and scarecrows and now cover the whole field with a tough net to keep off the smart and hungry crows until the bean plants are established.
Meanwhile temperatures have finally dropped, which, combined with low sunlight levels, will slow the growth of our precocious leeks, kales and cabbages which had threatened to get away from us. Typically nothing grows very much for the next six weeks so, by the end of January, we should be back on top and will probably find ourselves short of greens by February.
After years of struggling with fungal disease in damp, drizzly Devon, most of our onions are now grown on well drained land at our farm on the edge of the Fens; with lower humidity and half the rainfall, the odds are more in our favour. This year we have been feeling smug with a fantastic crop of dry, firm, good-sized onions to see us through most of the winter. They were ‘topped’ (ie. had their foliage mowed off) and then lifted in August, before being finished with hot air in the barn. Having got them dry, with good skins and a well sealed neck, the plan is then to blow cold night air through the clamp to prolong dormancy and slow any rots; a dry 1°C is the ideal for storing an onion. However, with night time temperatures of 13-14°C in October we never managed to get them cold enough; their clocks kept ticking and they think it is spring already with internal sprouting in some, and rots in others. We are grading out any that are obviously bad but this is a rather longwinded plea for tolerance; we reckon they are OK (just) but if you disagree let us know and we’ll replace or refund. We have already decided that next year we must spend the cash and the carbon and cold store any destined for use after the New Year; it’s that or import. Few things smell worse than a rotten onion, so we’re going for the lesser of two evils.